Taking Affirmative Action: Do Gays Deserve the Same Boost into College as Racial Minorities?

By Luc Nguyen, David | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), January 30, 2007 | Go to article overview

Taking Affirmative Action: Do Gays Deserve the Same Boost into College as Racial Minorities?


Luc Nguyen, David, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Do gay college applicants face the same prejudicial roadblocks to success as their straight African-American, Latino, and Asian-American counterparts? That's what university admissions officers are asking as they weigh another question: Should schools consider adding gays to lists of preferred minorities?

Queer affirmative action received attention in the world of academics after an October 2006 article in Inside Higher Ed reported that Vermont's Middlebury College would be the first to implement affirmative action for gay applicants. At an admissions conference that month, a representative for the college had announced, "Middlebury College is this year for the first time giving students who identify themselves as gay in the admissions process an 'attribute'--the same flagging of an application that members of ethnic minority groups, athletes, alumni children, and others receive."

Middlebury officials later refuted their representative's assertion and denied they had plans for gay affirmative action, but other schools are cautiously pondering whether to consider sexual orientation in their admissions. People like 21-year-old gay Oregon State University student Tyler Hansen are cheering.

"Historically, we've been unfairly targeted for discrimination and exclusion," says Hansen. "There are cases in which university officials actively sought out and expelled gay students."

On the other hand, some believe that gays--white male gays in particular--don't deserve the same protected status as racial minorities. After all, although queer students are susceptible to bigotry, the orientation of a gay white man is not as discernible as the ethnicity of a Latino student.

In Seattle, 23-year-old lesbian and University of Washington graduate student Chelsea Jennings is among the gay affirmative action dissenters. "Affirmative action is not just about diversity," she says. …

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